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Archive for February, 2011

Eamon de Valera ( 1882-1975)
During his younger days the Irish statesman was often getting into trouble for expressing his political beliefs. He took such arrests and confinement as a nuisance but part of the risks the Irish were taking to throw off the yoke of British rule. At one time he was arrested in the middle of a speech. Having served one year prison sentence he returned to the same auditorium from where he was hauled off. Facing the crowd the gangly stork-like politician began,”As I was saying when I was interrupted…”

benny

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LORD GEORGE GORDON BYRON, (1788 – 1824) British
Poet

A gifted poet with dashing looks gilded with the rank, he was the 6th baron, born to a strong willed heiress and a profligate father. He as a boy lived in penury. Byron became Lord Byron at the age of ten and had a unstable childhood reared under an overbearing mother and seduced at the age of nine by a wicked nurse Mary Gay. He was bruised by childhood traumas: his life with mother made him aware of the eccentric and wild side of his ancestors and his mother was certain he would turn out to be like his scapegrace father. He spent his childhood divided between Scotland and in London. The story of Cain and the idea of evil done under compulsion, and the man cursed for his sin haunted his imagination. He was in a sense one who did his best to outrun his doomladen heredity real or imagined.
When he came to the title he was brought to Newstead Abbey, the family seat with a capital of £75. Sent to Harrow he was set to prove himself. He excelled himself in games, swimming and began to write verses. He also fell, in and out of love a trait which was to last for the rest of his life.
He as the poet himself confessed, found himself overnight famous – despite all the accomplishment his congenital clubfoot drove him to despair and as a child loved the solitude of the tombs and there it must have first filled him with the transience of earthly glory. His attitude of ironic despair and his aspirations for political liberty made him the universal symbol of the Romantic poet. Partly his personality and largely his poetry captured the imagination of Europe.
In 1812 he gave his politically radical maiden speech in the House of the Lords and published his autobiographical poem ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’. Byron was then swept into a tide of fame and unfortunate love affairs; during this period he wrote the oriental tales ‘The Giaour’ and the ‘Bride of Abydos’ (1813) and ‘the Corsair’ and ‘Lara’ (1814). He made a disastrous marriage in 1815 and his involvement with his pretty and shallow half-sister ended in a scandal, which made the poet an outcast in London social circles. He was divorced in the following year and then embarked into a self-imposed exile to Europe. During his last years, he wrote ‘Don Juan’, a masterpiece in its genre and the ‘Prophecy of Dante’ and ‘Cain’ (1821).
He entered into the fight for Greek independence (1823-’24). During the misadventures that followed Byron steadfastly helped the Greek cause and he died of a fever.
Trivia: He called his wife Annabelle Millibanke ‘Princess of Parallelogram. Their daughter was Ada who extended the practical use of the ‘computer’ developed by Charles Babbage.

Anecdote:

While chatting with a clergy man who had much common sense Lord Byron grumbled at the twist of fate. The clergyman tried to convince the Providence against which he protested had endowed him with rich array of blessings,-his rank, wit, fortune and above all a mind that placed him above the rest of the mankind.
‘Ah, my friend,’ said Byron mournfully pointing to his forehead, ‘if this paces me above the rest of mankind,’ and pointing to his foot, ‘that places me far, far below them.’

benny

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William Faulkner (1897-1962)
Faulkner intended to create ‘an intact world of his own’ like Balzac and his imaginary Yoknapatacopha County is not at all a fictional picture of his native Lafayette County, Mississippi, but a realplace where he set his universally human legends. His characters apart from the idiots are all manically wilful and individualistic;moreover his characters are normally too proud to explain themselves. Excelling at dark descriptions of physical experiences he is ominous and dramatic without revealing some essential fact straightaway so the effect may come at the end shatteringly. He was uneven and sometimes pretentious writer and paternalistic about Civil Rights but he wrote five very good books,’As I lay dying’, The Sound and the Fury, Light in August, Absalom, Absalom! And the Hamlet.’

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CAIRO – Cries of “Egypt is free” rang out and fireworks lit up the sky as hundreds of thousands danced, wept and prayed in joyful pandemonium after 18 days of peaceful pro-democracy protests forced President Hosni Mubarak to surrender power to the military, ending three decades of authoritarian rule.(AP News)
I call Mubarak a nobody because he was a guest forced on the people because of an emergency. The only legitimacy he has had on them was he was a son of the soil, an Egyptian as any. When the house caught fire he was asked to put it out. Like a guest who overstayed he stayed on and what he did? He threw his weight around and helped himself to the best and made the householder sleep in the stable. He was called in at an emergency. He is a nobody because as a guest he forgot his standing and rubbished the rules of good breeding. He was a guest who strained his welcome till he was thrown out..
He is a nobody because he and his family took advantage of the situation to aggrandize himself. He forgot once again one cardinal rule required in a guest:not to to decamp with the spoons and forks, sterling silver and pride and joy of the house.
Woeful lack of etiquette makes him a nobody.
Did he share while he enjoyed wonderful hospitality of all, the burden even a little or lighten their loads? No he didn’t. He didn’t share in the pride and joy of the family or pay respect to their ancestors. While he made his own family help to the fortunes or name of the host he didn’t make the beard of the pharaoahs any longer or the Nile any bluer. He is a nobody whom the whole family finally got rid of. When he left the whole family cried because they were deliriously happy. He was a nobody alright.
benny

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The Peace Treaty of Versailles was all the more strange in the way the Allies were approaching the conference. For England and the USA settlement of peace throughout a war-torn Europe meant differently, not exactly what France had in mind by securing peace. England had her own agenda; so had the USA.
France realized at the end that her one time allies were behaving more like enemies. The French were for four years trying to fight off the Germans who had invaded their soil and bore the biggest losses. Of course what with the Germans having too many men and too many industries turning out arms she could not have won the war all alone. At the decisive moment the US entering into the war tipped the scale in her favor. The Allies had won the war.
But at the Peace Treaty friends were more like enemies and at the end France would be left with a feeling that she could not depend on others for deciding her future.
The question of reparations was their biggest hurdle.The Allies backed away from making the loser pay. France never received from Germany enough to pay more than 20% of the cost of rebuilding. The more France asked the less she received thanks to the Allies who were more for peace than doing justice to their ally who had to live with an enemy too close for comfort. England and America were safe from Germany geographically. So they could stop France from asking for a buffer state between Germany and her. France annexed Ruhr region as the talks dragged on but had to give back.
As for Reparations what the Allies at Versailles had stipulated, Germany could scale down since the Allies were fighting each other. The British were intent on restoring German markets, that had been so profitable to them before the war and what with the war was over they wanted to revive their own sluggish economy by making Germany pay less by way of reparations. The Americans had their eyes on the potential German market too. The US bankers were eager to lend loans at profitable interest rates. Neither had any real sympathy for the plight of France.
Germany deliberately wrecked their currency the mark falling to four million to a dollar by Aug 1923 and eventually to 25 billions. Germany could renege on the reparations in so many ways and of 123 billion gold marks assessed in 11921 towards reparation Germany never had to pay a single mark out of their own resources. What they borrowed from America were never repaid and in a way the naive Americans footed the German Reparations bill.
The way France was deprived of her just claims by opportunistic Allies was a timely lesson for her. This must have made Charles deGaulle not to join the American camp when the Cold War was being fought in real earnest. (Stalin’s Non-Aggression Pact with Germany must have stemmed from his distrust of the West, partly from the manner the Allies had let down France.)
benny

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Dr.Martin Luther King (1929-1968) Civil Rights Pioneer

It fell to Lincoln to abolish slavery by a law but Luther King gave the blacks their self-respect. Civil Rights movement captured the nation’s imagination in 1957 when he led the African Americans of Montgomery,Alabama in a boycott if buses which ended seregation of blacks on buses practically every city in the South. His sit-ins in 1960 enabled them to share lunch counters, libraries,parks with whites. His ‘freedom rides’ ended segregation in inter-state travel. These and much publicized confrontation with’Bull’ Connors, the brutal Birmingham Police chief in 1963 hit the climax when they marched to the Capitol which resulted in the pushing through Congress the Civil Rights legislation. Law helped and publicizing the segregation to give Afro-Americans equal rights in their daily lives were also succeeded. But did he really clear up the nation’s prejudice against the blacks was a question that didn’t have ready answer. The non-violent methods by which Dr. King achieved a social revolution held up the precepts of Gandhi and Thoreau and also the Christian ideals that he as a minister found useful. He certainly put the Afro-Americans in the South on a plane of moral superiority in the wake of outrages that sporadically broke out. The Racial doctrines by which the extreme Right groups were unleashing violence against the Jews and the blacks sounded false and out oif step with the times. His life was threatened his home was bombed and he had certain premonitions of death and his moral courage shone through in these sombre period. He tiirelessly toured through the country preaching non violence and in his spell-binding style of his vision for future. His style of delivery and content were spontaneous to give an emotional edge in the listeners but none matched ‘I have a dream’ speech given on the steps of the Capitol Hill.
benny

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When France sat with other Allies to hammer out a Treaty of peace she must not have fully understood what the war cost her.
134 billions gold francs worth of goods and property went up in smoke. One out of ten Frenchmen had been killed at the front and the youth on whom future of any nation depends on suffered it most. Three out of ten of them between 18 and 28 had been slaughtered for the folly of others. Intellectuals also suffered and 23 out of every 100 men belonging to the liberal professions had perished in the trenches. Of 4,266,000 men wounded, a million and a half were maimed permanently. With such a loss France was to pay dearly in the years to come. France overnight became gray and the birth-rate directly connected to the national trauma fell sharply. It is calculated that between 1915 and 1919 there were 1,400,000 fewer births than normal. There were 1,400,000fewer parents by then. Nearly a million and a half war dead, more than 2 million fewer births France found her population less at the end of than at the outset of war. Of course she gained nearly 2 million citizens with the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine. France had at the end 30 million against the population of Germany at 63 millions.
Only a massive immigration organized by the State could keep Industry, agriculture and mining going. Male workers from Italy and Poland were thus put to work. Between wars they accounted for 80% of the 2,700,000 increase in French population.After 1935 death rate exceeded the birthrate. Immigration had to be curtailed as a result of unemployment. The 1931 depression was to hit France. When the WWII came France had less than half as many men between 20 and 34 as the Germans-roughly four million to 9 million.(ack:The Collapse of the Third Republic-William L.Shirer-p.140/pub:pan)

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Once a visitor calling on Thomas Carlyle pointed to him of the war going on in the United States and he said,’There they are cutting each other’s throats, because one half of them prefer hiring their servants for life, and the other by the hour.’
benny

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I shall begin by quoting Churchill and also end with him.
India is not a geographical reality anymore than as Churchill had observed,’the equator is’. In short India is what every Indian would make of a concept of union of certain states. Of course historically is a reality since we won freedom ‘at midnight’ in 1947 and subsequently we passed the Constitution by an act of Parliament into law. The Constitution is a visible proof of the will of people and it enshrines the union of all citizens; as such an union would expect every Indian to preserve it.
But how did we celebrate it for the past 61 years?
There has been without let up every community playing a communal card to serve its narrow ends. No cabinet was workable without giving adequate representation to the communities that considered themselves a power unto themselves. Of course Government passed some laws to give hitherto untouchables representation. We have even a Chief Minister who is a Dalit and what does she do? She shows she has indeed ‘arrived’ by spending crores of the public Exchequer for elevating herself in public memory. We have Taj Mahal built by a Mughal emperor to perpetuate his eternal sorrow for his queen and was she moved by such archetypal emotions as love and bereavement? Ms. Mayawati knows she would not be missed by the end of her term in office. Naturally she has safeguarded the lapse of public memory by the powers bestowed on her. The charter of Constitution means many things to many and to the ilk of Ms. Mayawati it is a license to indulge in the worst excesses of vanity.
The other day I read a news item that a DSP who is in charge of her security detail stooped himself to wipe her sandals. Remarkable to see officers in India who has completely effaced their dignity to this level. Having seen the manner politicians bend backwards to please narrow vested interests and represent them I am immune to such abject abasement. Constitution means securing power and some are willing to pander to it totally!
So we have a Constitution but who I wonder has ever read it with care as to understand its intent? 28 percent of MPs as the CVC PJ Thomas claimed the other day, are criminally charge-sheeted. Of course he has, as implied in his words, been under a cloud and a charge-sheet has been served on him. How come the Center has let him to be Chief Vigilance Commissioner? The Caesar put away his wife on the principle ‘Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.’ Julius Caesar as we know ‘was wife to everyman and husband to every woman.’ But then Romans loved their Caesars to be above every rule including moral laws. A Caesar can flout all laws of middle class decency but in the modern India even Chief Vigilance Commissioner ought to be clean, absolutely. Anything less would be like taking the millions of Indians for granted. The elected representative does not think of himself bound to be a citizen, laying the highest example in honor of his position. It is in a way showing his courtesy to the people he is called to serve. Whatever may be their shortcomings both Morarji Desai and Sardar Patel had rectitude and courage of their convictions. The latter even forbade his sons from wheeling and dealing from his official residence. The iron man didn’t even want a smell of suspicion cling to him. Instead we have politicians extending both arms to shield those who are criminals. Politicians who are partial to the lawless and ‘tainted’ individuals with a view to votes and advancement in their political career are laying ground for every sort of mischief possible. They even condone ‘contributions’ as means to secure votes. It is thus how all good intentions are slowly eroded. Mr. PJ Thomas as an individual forgets himself that he with a criminal charge against him he cannot be an arbiter, and the Cabinet pretends everything will turn out all right if no one makes a fuss about it. This is how citizen and his elected representatives govern the nation, with their minds not fully engaged.
From that stirring speech from the ramparts of Delhi Jawaharlal Nehru spoke of a tryst with destiny.’ Then came a license Raj as a sop to some business houses. Nehruvian model was not homespun like Khadi but from ‘socialism’ that he imbibed in his school days in England. If our national life is blighted by missed opportunites and puerile ideals of our leaders what have we done to counter them? Those who toadied upto the British and stirred the base passions as to religion and community, they now openly pass for the voice of ‘moral order!’
Is it to be wondered then that we are ‘according to Transparency International, the world’s 87th most corrupt nation with an integrity score of 3.3? ‘
If we cannot live upto the highest ideals that we swear by we must not wonder why we have criminals laying our laws and speak platitudes. Our spiritual fathers were not living in the best of times but their highest standards set for themselves came out inspite of the worst excesses of their times. Mahatma Gandhi didn’t ape the British in order to become the father of the nation. Living as he did among conflicts his ideals connected with a great soul of ancient times. Gautama Buddha didn’t live when non-violence was the norm. But his spiritual strength to find a Golden Mean made millions of men in Asia find a standard to live by. Paradoxically India is his birthplace and we allow violence as a matter of course. If one group will right the past wrongs by destroying an old archaeological landmark those who were in power pretended as though did not see it.
If the Center cannot ensure religion to be kept in its place our secular claims are suspect and of little worth. If our leaders do not have courage of their opinions how can the Constitution be held up as a venerable article?
Here is a mail received this morning from one of my friends:

Sir Winston Churchill argument against granting india / Pakistan Independence 

“Power will go to rascals, rogues, freebooters. . . . 
All leaders will be of low caliber; and men of straw. . . 
They’ll have sweet tongues; and silly hearts. . . 
They will fight amongst themselves for power; and the two countries will be lost in political squabbles. . . . 
A day would come when even air and water will be taxed. 

He wrote this 64 years ago. . . 
Incredibly we’ve worked very hard to prove him right. . .
 (Funny I was checking the Google for this particular quote without success and to get it as soon as I wrote this piece! Is it not something fortuitous? Coincidence pure and simple!-b)
Cheers
m-

Benny

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(This news item from SPACE.com of May 18,2010 is posted here to throw some light on the essay ‘Lessons in History’ see post of Feb.7 under category history.b)

Why We Exist-Matter Wins Battle Over Antimatter(May 18 SPACE.com)

The seemingly inescapable fact that matter and antimatter particles destroy each other on contact has long puzzled physicists wondering how life, the universe or anything else can exist at all. But new results from a particle accelerator experiment suggest that matter does seem to win in the end.
The experiment has shown a small — but significant — 1 percent difference between the amount of matter and antimatter produced, which could hint at how our matter-dominated existence came about.
The current theory, known as the Standard Model of particle physics, has predicted some violation of matter-antimatter symmetry, but not enough to explain how our universe arose consisting mostly of matter with barely a trace of antimatter.
But this latest experiment came up with an unbalanced ratio of matter to antimatter that goes beyond the imbalance predicted by the Standard Model. Specifically, physicists discovered a 1 percent difference between pairs of muons and antimuons that arise from the decay of particles known as B mesons.
The results, announced Tuesday, came from analyzing eight years worth of data from the Tevatron collider at the Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill.
“Many of us felt goose bumps when we saw the result,” said Stefan Soldner-Rembold, a particle physicist at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. “We knew we were seeing something beyond what we have seen before and beyond what current theories can explain.”
The Tevatron collider and its bigger cousin, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland, can smash matter and antimatter particles together to create energy, as well as new particles and antiparticles. Otherwise, antiparticles only arise due to extreme events such as nuclear reactions or cosmic rays from dying stars.
Measurements made by the DZero collaboration, a 500-member international group, are still limited by the number of collisions recorded so far. That means physicists will continue to collect data and refine their analysis of the matter-antimatter struggle for dominance.
Researchers came up with their latest finding by performing a so-called blind data analysis, so that they would not bias their analyses based on what they observed. They have submitted their results to the journal Physical Review D.

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